Sunday, while working on another project I stumbled across an August 2012 article I wrote talking about the importance of defining your opponent in politics. The campaign in question was the Obama-Romney contest. I’d like to relate that to the 2016 Clinton-Trump contest. Let’s explore.
In the article I discussed the importance of the Obama campaign’s success in characterizing Mitt Romney in the eyes of the American electorate. I openly speculated whether that was due to the prowess or good fortune of the boys and girls in Chicago. (Full disclosure: I was working for the campaign but at a much lower level and in North Carolina.) We are looking at a similar situation in 2016. Trump is increasingly being perceived as a liar, con artist and sexual predator. The question of credit for this achievement is again somewhat debatable however I feel it is much more due to the ineptitude of the Trump forces in Manhattan (and most likely The Donald himself) than to the skills of the Clinton team in Brooklyn. The biggest skill Hillary and her people appear to be displaying is knowing when to shut up. In fact that is the reason I think she won the first two debates; Hillary simply let Donald keep digging when he was in a hole.
Trump is like a high school kid who thinks you win a discussion by getting in the “wisest” line and/or the last word. This helps explain why Trump is winning the white, less well educated demographic. In most cases they never matured beyond high school and certainly didn’t continue their education beyond it if in fact they exited from it via graduation.
Trump’s doubling, tripling and quadrupling down on gaffes and repeating debunked and/or obvious lies plays well with Bubba but the reality is there are not enough Bubbas to win in November. For those in the media who are still trying to find a method to Trump’s madness one of the currently popular theories is that in the final 30 days Trump is trying to make the campaign so ugly that all but his base will get so disgusted that they will not show up to vote.
With Steve Bannon steering the SS Trump through its final days I feel they will turnout much of their base who erroneously think Trump is winning. Trump has stoked the feeling that the only way he can lose is if “those people” steal the election from him. It is part of right wing mythology that all blacks vote multiple times. Trump’s mainly racist base actually buys his malarkey. (The post-election repercussions of all this could be serious and will be the subject of a future article.)
To all but his most loyal supporters Trump is increasingly viewed negatively. We will see if my theory that Americans much more often vote against candidates than for them holds up this time around. American by and large may not love Clinton but they hate and fear Trump.
While the 2012 and 2016 presidential contests are very different and much is rapidly changing in American politics, some things just stay the same and the impact of the public’s perception of a candidate’s image is one of them.
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